`Vote Leave' May Have Violated 2016 Spending Rule, Observer Says

(Bloomberg) -- The main group that campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union, which included Boris Johnson among its advocates, may have broken campaign spending laws, according to the Observer newspaper, which cited comments by a whistle-blower.

“Vote Leave” donated 625,000 pounds ($883,000) to an independent referendum organization called BeLeave, which may have flouted the limits on referendum spending because rather than a donation, Vote Leave said how the money was to be spent, whistle-blower Shahmir Sanni, who worked at BeLeave, said in the Observer, which cooperated with Channel 4 on the story.

The money was channeled to a digital services firm AggregateIQ of Canada, which is linked to Cambridge Analytica that is caught up in Facebook Inc.’s customer data breach. The money was registered as a donation to BeLeave, a youth operation, but in practice Vote Leave offered advice to the group and decided where the money was spent, Sanni said. British electoral law prohibits coordination between different campaigns, and set a 7 million pound spending limit for all groups.

“Observer/C4 story utterly ludicrous, #VoteLeave won fair & square -- and legally,” Johnson said Saturday in a tweet. “We are leaving the EU in a year and going global.”

Details of the potential violation of spending rules emerged with Britain just over year away from leaving Europe and amid unease in some quarters about the economic repercussions for the country.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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